Making Lacto-Fermented Vegetables – Probiotic Foods

lacto-fermenting zucchiniLacto-fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, used to be common foods before refrigeration, as they are a way to preserve the harvest.  More and more research is coming out about how important they are because they contain probiotics, live microorganisms that create healthy benefits when consumed. They can positively affect a wide range of health issues: digestive health, weight control, immune health, and much more.

I’ve taken to creating my own probiotic foods by using the natural fermentation process of the beneficial bacteria called Lactobacilli, the same bacteria found in yogurt and some other fermented foods.  Creating the pickled vegetables is much easier than I thought it would be.

Before today, I made sour dill pickles and pickled green beans, and they turned out great using two different recipes.  For the pickles, I used Alton Brown’s Dill Pickles recipe.  However, for the green beans, I used a cross between Alton Brown’s recipe and the psuedo one at “How to Make Lacto-Fermented Vegetables without Whey.”

Today, I started the lacto-fermenting process using zucchini and yellow squash.  Once the farm where I get my produce starts providing food for the year, I’ll be making a variety of pickled vegetables.  I’ll also try using some other fresh herbs from the farm, other than the dill I’ve been using so far.

As the article at Nourishing Meals mentions, you can use

Any Combination of Raw Organic Vegetables, Chopped or Whole:fermenting zucchini
green beans
bell peppers
green onions
cabbage leaves (for the top)

Any Combination of Herbs and Spices:
dried chili peppers
red peper flakes
dill seed
black peppercorns
bay leaf
fresh dill
fresh basil
fresh tarragon
fresh mint
sea vegetables (arame or hijiki) – use less salt if using these

Here’s the recipe I used.


Makes 1 jar

1 glass quart jar with a plastic lid (or a sealable, quart plastic bag)
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt
2 cups filtered water


  • several sprigs of dill
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
  • About 1 pound of raw, organic vegetables chopped.  Make all one type or mix and match.
  • 1 napa cabbage leaf or a plastic bag with water in it


  1. Add salt to the jar and stir in the water.
  2. Add the dill, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic, and dill seed. Push the items down with a spoon as much as possible.  Some items will tend to float more than others.
  3. Add in the chopped vegetables, leaving 1 inch of space from the top of the jar.  The vegetables will float until they soak up the salt in the fermentation process.  Push the vegetables down with a spoon to even them out.
  4. If using napa cabbage, fold a leaf and push it into the jar to cover the other vegetables and cover with the plastic lid without tightening it because the fermentation gases need to escape.  Or use a sealable plastic bag with about 1/2 inch of water.  Press out air and close it.  Place it in the jar, making sure it completely covers the vegetables.  (Don’t use metal since it will corrode due to the salt.)
  5. Place the jar in a pan and put in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.  (The pan will catch any liquid that bubbles out.)  I put mine in the basement.
  6. Check the jar after 3 days.  Fermentation is taking place if bubbles are rising to the top.  It’s important to skim off any scum on top of the liquid on a daily basis from here on out.  If using napa and the leaf is out of the water, replace the leaf.  If using a plastic bag, just rinse off the scum and stick the bag back into the jar to completely cover the vegetables.  (During fermentation, the aromatic ingredients, especially the dill, will give off a wonderful aroma.)
  7. In approximately 6 to 7 days, the fermentation is complete when the vegetables taste sour and the bubbles have stopped rising.  The dilly aroma no longer filled the room.  (It could take more or less time, depending on the room temperature.)  Once fermentation has stopped, remove any scum, along with the napa cabbage or plastic bag.  Cover the jar loosely with a plastic lid and place in the refrigerator, skimming daily or as needed.  Store for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.
  8. When taking out the fermented vegetables, use a fork if possible to keep as much liquid in the jar as able.  If the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables after some are removed, add more filtered water and a little salt in the same proportions as above to prevent spoilage.

If whole vegetables become soft or begin to take on a strange odor, this is a sign of spoilage, and they need to be discarded.  Also, discard any vegetables floating on top of the water at any point in the process.

I had to discard 3 small pickles out of more than 3 1/2 pounds used the previous time.

Properly fermented whole vegetables, like cucumbers and green beans, will remain crunchy, while chopped vegetables may not.

fermenting zucchini

Napa cabbage leaf on left and plastic bag on right